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Martha Lane Fox webchat 14 April

(60 Posts)
KatieMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 12-Apr-11 09:54:11

The UK's Digital Champion, Martha Lane Fox, is our guest this Thurs morning. As Digital Champion, she's attempting to get the 9 million people in the UK who have never used the internet online and we're backing her Pass IT on campaign.

Martha co-founded Lastminute.com back in the early days of internet commerce, and has since co-founded Lucky Voice and Antigone. She's also a non-exec director at M&S, C4 and Mydeco.com.

If you've got a question about Pass IT On, or Martha's work generally, then please grab a coffee and join us at 10am on Thurs.

And if you'd like to be digital champ yourself, helping get friends and neighbours online, then there's more info here.

MarthaLaneFox Thu 14-Apr-11 10:11:11

Crumblemum

Hi Martha

Mine's a personal question - hope you don't mind. I know you had a horrible accident several years ago, but you actually seem to have achieved even more with your businesses and interests since the accident than you did before. How did you keep focussed during your recovery, and did people's attitudes to you change after your accident?

Course I don't mind! Yes my accident was hideous. I broke 26 bones and I had a stroke. I think that I am very lucky to have the support networks that I do and to have been able to afford so much care to help me. There is no doubt that without my amazing boyfriend @CGorellBarnes and my extraordinary mother Louisa I would have been in a right pickle! Now I cannot work one full time job so maybe I give the impression of achieving a lot but actually I am just doing lots of different things.

MarthaLaneFox Thu 14-Apr-11 10:14:44

MaundyBra

Hi Martha
I guess you're preaching the the converted here, although I was shocked to hear that there are 9m not connected. Is that households or people? For example, my dad in his 70s will use the PC but my mum is scared that she will break the computer and just gets him to google everything for her!

Hi MaundyBra,

Yes the number is shocking. 20% of the adults in our country have never used the internet! This 9 million is 60% over 65, but also 50% are from the lowest income groups so it is an important social issue. I think your mum and dad our quite typical, the stats we have been looking at Race Online show that it is a much higher percentage of women that have never been online.

Katn Thu 14-Apr-11 10:15:03

Do you have any tips for introducing people who are technophobes into using the internet and email in general? I'm thinking of my gran who had a hard time even using a mobile phone (and we gave her one of those ones with massive buttons and everything!)

JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 14-Apr-11 10:17:35

Incidentally, for all those with digitally savvy or not so savvy mums and dads, we are launching a new community site for grandparents - Gransnet - next month. We'll obviously keep you fully posted so you can encourage them to join in...

PrivetDancer Thu 14-Apr-11 10:18:16

Surely this initiative will just happen on it's own anyway? The younger generations are being brought up to expect to be online, they use computers in schools, most phones have Internet access, it's only going to become cheaper and more prevalent.
Is it not just mostly the older generation who make up most of the numbers of those not online? And those numbers will naturally, erm, fall away?

I can't see how you can fail to meet the target. Nice job!

MarthaLaneFox Thu 14-Apr-11 10:18:59

Gooseberrybushes

I've always wondered if you ever felt a bit guilty about making all that money off people who instantly lost when lastminute shares crashed. Do you mind me asking this?

Good question. I didn't make any money from the flotation of lastminute.com but you are right I did make a lot of money when we sold the company. The money we raised when we were quoted went partly to banks! but mainly into building the company. We worked out when we sold in 2005 that the average shareholder had made money between 2000-2005. I think when you run a business all you can do is work hard to build the best company you can and I am proud that lastminute.com is still the biggest travel and leisure site in Europe. So to get to the point, of course I feel sorry that anybody lost some money, and of course we made lots of mistakes but overall I hope we built something of value.

PrivetDancer Thu 14-Apr-11 10:20:42

Ah, you kind of answered this in your answer above while I was typing, I still think though that with kids using computers in school now, even the poorer groups will be covered as they grow up, just as everyone has mobile phones now.

MarthaLaneFox Thu 14-Apr-11 10:21:56

PrivetDancer

Surely this initiative will just happen on it's own anyway? The younger generations are being brought up to expect to be online, they use computers in schools, most phones have Internet access, it's only going to become cheaper and more prevalent.
Is it not just mostly the older generation who make up most of the numbers of those not online? And those numbers will naturally, erm, fall away?

I can't see how you can fail to meet the target. Nice job!

If only it were that simple PrivetDancer. 9 million people is a huge number and it is not just older people. 3 million of the 9 million are under 65, of course the trends are going in our favour but I think we can't wait for the market, it is too important. A lot of what we are doing at @raceonline_2012 is encouraging companies to do things earlier and faster than they would have done before.

MarthaLaneFox Thu 14-Apr-11 10:24:55

MmeSurvivedLent

Hello Martha,

welcome to MN.

I see you are non-executive director of Marks and Spencer. Now, you likely do not have much to do with everyday M&S business, but can you have a word and get someone to sort out their ladies fashion? I am a loyal M&S customer and would love to buy more but the clothes are seriously awful at times. From boring to bizarre. I fancied a new dress this summer and there was not one dress that I liked. And why on earth do M&S not offer overseas shipping on food items? They would make a bomb. I live abroad and would love to be able to order tea bags etc with my Markies order.

You would not believe how many people talk to me about M&S products. I get stopped and asked about bras and about the packaging of the fruit! As you quite rightly say non-executive directors shouldn't really influence the micro product decisions, but I do buy a huge number of clothes from the stores myself. We have 21 million customers a week and are the largest womenswear retailer in the country so I am really sad that you cannot find anything you like, when Stuart was boss he would have offered to take you shopping! My advice is to have another good look around online, there is so much product.

MarthaLaneFox Thu 14-Apr-11 10:26:41

southeastastra

my dad is 81 and uses the internet, just to look at pictures of mischa barton though

My dad is 62 and only got online when he realised his students had posted lots of pictures of him! wink

MarthaLaneFox Thu 14-Apr-11 10:30:05

BecauseImWoeufIt

Whilst I think it's a laudable aim to get everyone online, I think it's actually an impossible thing to achieve.

Quite apart from the financial issue of buying a computer (and all its peripherals) and paying for broadband, there's the problem of lack of knowledge, apathy and resistance which I know many people have.

My dad, who is 79 is very young at heart in many things - but as far as technology is concerned you can forget it. This is a man who has never used a cashpoint!

What on earth are you going to do about people like him? He sees absolutely no need to change how he goes about things and has zero interest in getting a computer or going online via any other method.

I don't agree it is an impossible task. I think it is hard but not impossible. We are working with 1100 partners to try and address the problems you mention. There are 3 big areas of work: we are creating a network of digital champions, people who will sit down individually with people like your dad and inspire them and help them to get online, we are creating cheap packages of product to make sure price is not an issue for anyone, and we are working closely with government to make sure they help too.

MarthaLaneFox Thu 14-Apr-11 10:33:01

Want2bSupermum

DH is in England this week and the bandwidth has been a major problem all week. He is in Manchester, about 10mins from the city center. For friends who live in rural areas, the access varies from poor to non existant so most do not bother. How do the government plan to improve bandwidth/coverage while maintaining affordability?

I can't imagine how frustrating it is if you cannot get a good internet connection. I have a small idea as even though I live in the middle of London, for some unknown reason my wireless often cuts out! There are commitments from government to make sure everybody has 2Mb connection by 2015 and in addition some superfast broadband projects are underway - but I agree this needs to be more and faster, and everytime I meet Ministers I say so.

paxtonsmedley Thu 14-Apr-11 10:35:56

Hi Martha

do you know how many of the 9millions want to get online but can't because of physical or sensory or learning disabilities?

I work with disabled people a lot and and always surprised how marginalised they are in so many ways, including the use of computers and the web.

There are lots of specially-designed tools to help them but it is rarely one-size-fits-all and they are not cheap.

Do you have information about this and what can you to help?

thanks

Paxton

MarthaLaneFox Thu 14-Apr-11 10:37:34

Katn

Do you have any tips for introducing people who are technophobes into using the internet and email in general? I'm thinking of my gran who had a hard time even using a mobile phone (and we gave her one of those ones with massive buttons and everything!)

We are talking to partners who are thinking about products specifically for older people who struggle with some of the hardware. You are right, it is daunting especially if you have never used any technology, i suggest you start with something you know your gran loves, maybe it's photos of you lot? maybe its BBC's iPlayer or maybe it's looking up her family tree online.

BUT PLEASE all Mumsnet users it would be fantastic if you could spread your tech skills to someone you know who can't get to use the internet. 9 out of 10 people not online know someone who is - so we are a big part of the solution.

LindsayWagner Thu 14-Apr-11 10:37:38

Hello Martha

Can I have a couple of questions?

Where do you stand on net neutrality (the possibility that we could end up with "two-tier" connections where some services are slower than others)?

And..

What do you think of the new .xxx domain for porn sites? Is it really going to have an impact on the exposure of children to pornography, and if not, what do you think is the best way forward?

MarthaLaneFox Thu 14-Apr-11 10:39:49

paxtonsmedley

Hi Martha

do you know how many of the 9millions want to get online but can't because of physical or sensory or learning disabilities?

I work with disabled people a lot and and always surprised how marginalised they are in so many ways, including the use of computers and the web.

There are lots of specially-designed tools to help them but it is rarely one-size-fits-all and they are not cheap.

Do you have information about this and what can you to help?

thanks

Paxton

This is really important - and for those people there is a massive benefit for being connected. AbilityNet are working with us to make sure we champion good solutions for people with disabilities or the people who look after them.

LindsayWagner Thu 14-Apr-11 10:40:19

Ooh sorry three: what is your best strategic advice to anyone thinking of launching a startup in this economic climate? Are the opportunities still there?

MarthaLaneFox Thu 14-Apr-11 10:40:53

JustineMumsnet

Incidentally, for all those with digitally savvy or not so savvy mums and dads, we are launching a new community site for grandparents - Gransnet - next month. We'll obviously keep you fully posted so you can encourage them to join in...

Great! Hope it goes really well smile

Are you on twitter, Martha?

Thanks for answering my question.

MarthaLaneFox Thu 14-Apr-11 10:43:32

LindsayWagner

Ooh sorry three: what is your best strategic advice to anyone thinking of launching a startup in this economic climate? Are the opportunities still there?

It is tough right now but weirdly sometimes the toughest climates can offer interesting opportunities. There is money out there for great ideas but my main advice would be to just try to start your business and test the concept as cheaply as possible. You can do plenty on the web for very little money now.

MarthaLaneFox Thu 14-Apr-11 10:44:25

MmeSurvivedLent

Are you on twitter, Martha?

Thanks for answering my question.

I absolutely love twitter I am @marthalanefox - I use it so much for advice, information, news, fun... Do you?

MarthaLaneFox Thu 14-Apr-11 10:47:07

LindsayWagner

Hello Martha

Can I have a couple of questions?

Where do you stand on net neutrality (the possibility that we could end up with "two-tier" connections where some services are slower than others)?

And..

What do you think of the new .xxx domain for porn sites? Is it really going to have an impact on the exposure of children to pornography, and if not, what do you think is the best way forward?

Whoa serious questions smile I'm with Tim Berners Lee on net neutrality - I think it is fundamental to the philosophy of the internet. As for the porn domains I think they probably are helpful as it will allow parental control software to be even more effective.

MarthaLaneFox Thu 14-Apr-11 10:49:10

Alouiseg

Hi Martha, I already live and breathe through the Internet and know my way round computers and related technology. I often look at "computer courses" to broaden my knowledge but it's difficult to know which to do. Have you any advice or recommendations for courses or qualifications?

I would advise looking at Open University, LearnDirect and DirectGov.

paxtonsmedley Thu 14-Apr-11 10:52:38

thanks for the answer I will look up abilitynet - can your digital champiuons help disabled people?

I know this is a bit like the questions about marks and speners dresses but since you have something to do with the government and david camerone what do you think anyone can do to stop the awful changes to disabilityliving allowance? many people are going to go from very bad to much worse and the internet is the last of their worries

what can we do?

Paxton

MarthaLaneFox Thu 14-Apr-11 10:52:45

RetroMaggie

Hi Martha
Now that government grants to enable English care homes install simplified touch screen internet access has ended, how can companies like SimplyUnite convince care home owners it is worth the investment?
Is there anything in the pipeline to (financially) to encourage all UK (not just English) residential homes to make this leap?

SimplyUnite.com are proving the over 70s and 80s, even those with severe dementia, can learn to use and benefit from the net, email and skype.

Many thanks
Mags

@raceonline_2012 have been working with Finerday to work across care homes - with more homes being reached each day.

I absolutely agree that it is so important in helping people facing the challenges of mental health and old age especially when it can help reconnect them to their network of family and friends.

Finer day came about because they noticed that post had stopped coming through the door sad

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